New Materialism Dead-ends, Peter Gratton

New Materialism Dead-ends, Peter Gratton

“The stuff on new materialism–I noted this at several times during the conference–has run its course. Liz Grosz talked about the pain of rocks, Barad discussed the unconscious of protons…we have moved to the stage where there’s no method for the use of these terms, except anthropomorphism. I almost want to analyze why certain figures (and there were many at the conference) want to arrive at the conclusion that rocks have a world, etc. There are conclusions we don’t want to reach in this world: the rich only get richer, the frustration at work may just be leftover angst from one’s parental relation, racism will never end, etc. And then there’s this stuff about the pain of rocks and it having a “pure auto-affection”–it’s a conclusion that seems wanted at this moment. I’ll have to think this more through, but count me as incredibly dubious: it doesn’t multiply the differences in the world but in fact says to the world, you’re great, you’re like us. Martin Hägglund, who also gave a great talk, and I chatted about this quite a bit. (In any case, there’s an easy way out of not doing anthropomorphism, at least one from the tradition that inspires new materialists: just go Spinoza and say there are many more attributes to the modes than simply mind and body. And thus a rock’s self-relation may be many things that we cannot gather given our own attributes.) “

Was stillborn from my perspective, can we move on now to the pressing tasks at hand?

9 responses to “New Materialism Dead-ends, Peter Gratton

  1. Were some of the “new materialists” really claiming that rocks, as such, have feelings? (I have barely read any of this material, other than Shaviro, if he counts, so I’m really curious to know). This is certainly a poor caricature of the more developed panexperiential ontologies. I don’t see panexperientialism as making the world seem more like us. I think the point of such an ontology is precisely the reverse. Panexperientialism is anthrodecentric in the extreme, since it forces us to acknowledge that what we thought was unique to us (experience, meaning-making, value, purpose, etc.) is actually ubiquitous in nature. If anything is anthropocentric, it is the idea that human consciousness represents some hyper-radical ontologically emergent rupture utterly distinct from and alien to the rest of the cosmos.

    • hey mds, do you have reason to doubt Peter’s report?
      obviously there is no 3rd position/ground from which one can judge these matters, I would just ask people to attend to their experiences, do you in fact find yourself alienated from the alien/un-canny world around us or do you feel at home here part of some grand cosmopolis?

  2. Matt, i think panexperientialism does the opposite of what you want it to do. Values, meaning-making, recursive experience are all human capacities. and we recognized them first in ourselves. if we now what to claim that all objects have these things we are projecting (in the classical sense) and evaluating the world in our own image. taking rudimentary potencies and renaming them to be “values” etc., whitewashes the emergent nature (properties and capacities) of every known onto-specific system. To each their own, and to the degree to which they enact their character.

  3. Dirk, I still think there is a lot of conceptual work to be done under the heading of ‘materialism’, new or otherwise, if so many people are still holding idealism as a viable option. We need to continually refine our understanding of quantum-atomic-elemental emergences if we are going to finally get past Descartes and activate more corporealist sensibilities. I fully agree with Gratton’s criticisms here but would like to see us move the conversation towards a talk of how to WORK (cope) WITH with all those emergent varieties of onto-specific actualities (modes) allowed by the immanent morphogentic potency of things. I think a lot rides on how we talk and represent the nature of assemblages when in comes to figuring out what we want to accomplish.

    And, yes, Spinoza now and forever…

  4. “I think a lot rides on how we talk and represent the nature of assemblages when in comes to figuring out what we want to accomplish”.

    And so our stance on reality has to always be partisan to this. In a way, are we already turning back from the idea that the ontology precedes or is separable from politics? At the moment I keep wondering about the value of philosophy at all, except for the stubborn refusal of ontology to be irrelevant. Of course our partisanship is always to immanence, Prodhoun’s definition of anarchism.

    • my central interest is in trying to get things done, to make life a little more humane with what is at hand.
      and so as to what will serve or not (what is relevant or not) I think we will only know thru trial and error, failing again better we hope and not falling into the tyranny of the means.
      one of the things that i appreciate about our little ragged band is that we by and large welcome criticism/debate that helps to make things better rather than serving something already established, and we are writing in the service of more direct actions beyond the screen/page such that the blogging isn’t an end unto itself.
      or something like that…
      ps I don’t add the music and visual arts and all to illustrate philosophy but rather see these all as materials with which to work on/out the themes that we seem to be grasped by at any time, to try and flesh-out the inchoate, to make things as visceral/moving as possible.

    • Yes, I think the only way forward is to take a strong stance on representation as a consequential hominid practice – both in terms of how we seek to modify the CONTEXT of our communicative action and what we choose as the CONTENT of those expressive logics.

      Ontology is always in the mix (sometimes explicitly and oftem implicitly) and so has always been political. Politics is the mode in which we operationalize our ontologies (commitments and priorities) in public for private ends.

      Immanence just is: in philosophy (as a type of imaginal praxis) and politics (as a translational praxis). Hence infrastructure as the trans-medial site of constructing worlds.

  5. Michael, I’m wondering what an infrastructural response to accelerationism would look like, or if it would even be that different from it at all.

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